I recently worked with a lady that was locked out of her gmail account. Unfortunately this is a fairly common issue, especially for us older folks. Another person had her Gmail account taken over by a hacker who used it to send out emails requesting "help" for a family member. How does this happen, you ask? It's a pretty simple answer. In the first case she simply had not set up her account's security settings in case she forgot her password. In the second case, there was no active two factor authentication in place. Have you ever looked at your account's security settings? It's not something that many people do. Do you use two factor authentication? Let's talk about email security.
Why Is Your Email Account So Important?
Our email address is used so often for things other than just email. Internet services will require you to register with an email account. Do you use Facebook, Instagram, or Slack, etc for communicating with family and friends? How about Amazon.com or other online shopping sites? There are informational websites or forums that also require you to create an account.
Think of Your Email Account As a Key
In our world today, our email account is just like a KEY that we use to access all the various internet services out there. We probably all know what it would be like to lose a set of car keys or house keys. Our email "key" is just as important to safeguard! Should we lose access to our email account, we will likely lose control of all those internet services we regularly access.
Can't Access an Online Website Account?
Everyone forgets a website password at some point, unless they are using Password Managers. How many times have we clicked on the little "Forgot Your Password" link? We enter our email address and pretty quickly they send us an email back with a process to retrieve our password. A new password is created and we are good to go. That system actually works well until ...
I Can't Access My Email Account
What happens if you lose access to your email acccount? The website we wanted to access is no longer accessible because you can't get to the password reset email that was sent to you. We NEVER want to lose access to our email account! Depending on how websites and email providers have set up their systems, there are basically 3 ways to recover those accounts.
- Answer the security questions that you previously entered
- Have the email or website provider send you a confirmatory text via phone
- Have the email or website provider send you a comfirmatory email to the one on file
Have Your Ever Looked At Your Email Security Settings?
Hopefully your security settings are current. It's not uncommon for folks to have no security information on file for their email accounts. Google has become better at periodic email reminders for us to review our security settings. Maybe we had entered correct information in the past that was correct. However, for a variety of different reasons, our phone number or email address changed since then. Those items in our security settings are no longer current. Or, perhaps we didn't write down those challenge security questions and answers. What do you do now?
Internet based email providers like Google or Microsoft require current information be provided to verify that the account you are trying to get access to is actually yours. That information is your identity to them. If this information can not be provided, your account is "dead". You have lost control of your email account!
If you are using a local internet provider that also provides you with email service, you have a much better chance of recovering your account because you can go there in person, show them your identification and have them reset your password to your account. There is one disadvantage of using local internet provider's email services. Should you ever move or change internet providers, the email address you may have been using for a long time suddenly gets closed down.
Access to Your Website Accounts Are Attached to My Email Address
Here's a potential scary scenario. You no longer have access to your email account. You realize that you have used your now defunct email address to register on "100+" different websites.
Why is this a problem? Websites that you have forgotten passwords to will no longer be accessible to you if the only way to recover access is through your now defunct email account. What about those "100+" websites that you can still access? You are going to have to login and change your profile email to your newly created one. Oh ... and what about all those friends of yours that you maintain contact with? You are going to have to send them your new email address. Oh wait ... were all their email addresses stored in your old email account's contact list? Another big "Oh NO!" because you can't access them now. Can you begin to see how important it is that you PROTECT your email account?
How Do I Protect My Email Account?
- Create a STRONG password that is very different and NOT used for ANY other website accounts. This will help prevent the hackers from gaining access to your account.
- Use, if possible, what is called Two Factor Authentication. You set this up in your security settings. How this works is when you use a browser to access your internet email account, the account recognizes a correct username and password, but then will send you either and emaail or a text message to your phone with typically 6 random digits that you will additionally enter into the browser login process. This process then validates that you are indeed the account owner.
- BE SURE YOUR ACCOUNT SETTINGS ARE ALWAYS UP TO DATE! Make it a habit of checking these every few months and certainly after you change your phone number, or an alternate email address. Be sure to store your "challenge questions and answers" in a safe place.
I Have My Email Account Protected, Now What?
If you follow good security measures with your email account, you should have no future problems. There is another consideration to think about and that is the use of an email "alias". An alias is an additional email address associated with your internet email account. An alias uses the same inbox, contact list, and account settings as your primary email address. You can sign in to your email account with any alias ... they all use the same password.
Why woud you want to use an email alias? Creating alternate email addresses to use on websites or apps that force you to register can help keep your personal email address out of the hands of marketers and hackers. You are NOT limited to just one email alias, but can often have multiple ones.
For information about Outlook.com alias email accounts, CLICK HERE.
For information about Gmail.com alias email accounts, CLICK HERE